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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Rainbow flags and body bags : violence, terror, pride and everyday resistance in Northeastern Mexico Pysklywec, John Alexander


In 2006, Mexico’s then president, Felipe Calderón, declared a war on organized crime, popularly referred to now as a ‘drug war’, that has resulted in the deaths and disappearances of hundreds-of-thousands of people. In spite of this ongoing hardship and tragedy, in 2012 and 2013, the Northeastern border city of Esperanza (pseudonym) bore witness to the region’s first pride march. Why now? Why, in this moment of violence and conflict throughout the city and the region, have members of gender and sexual minority (GSM) communities in Esperanza decided to march for rights and recognition? What does this say about pride and other forms of GSM activisms in spaces of violent conflict? In this thesis, as I explore these questions, I recount a story about resistance and celebration of GSM life in the US/Mexico borderlands in a time of increasing fear, militarization, and death. The central argument I make here is that pride, as a form of activism and resistance, is variegated across space and time. That is, pride comes to mean different things in different places, and in those different places, it does different things. I demonstrate this by mounting three supporting arguments. First, I assert that state-directed violence has been a catalyst for GSM activism in Mexico in the past. I argue that the emergence of GSM activisms is rooted in times of violence and crisis that, like today in Esperanza, are not specifically directed at GSM communities, but more broadly within Mexican society. Next, I frame the contemporary violence in Mexico as a form of terror perpetrated by powerful state and non-state actors. Through the use of interviewee narratives and my own experiences, I argue that life in Esperanza is being shattered by violence and terror. This shattering is both heart-wrenching and destructive, but is also potentially creative of the conditions for challenging the status quo and societal norms. Finally, I argue that in the violent spaces of Esperanza, GSM activisms are challenging hetero/cis-normativity and oppression, but they also become acts of everyday resistance and contestation of the violence and terror of the so-called ‘drug war’.

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